Snapchat has been accused of using Blackface for a filter featuring the late Jamaican singer Bob Marley. The company made the filter celebrating 4/20, the unofficial holiday of marijuana.
Snapchat users can access the filter by holding their phones in front of their faces. Then, they should swipe to the left to reach the “Bob Marley” icon. Once selected, Marley’s image will cover their face as one of his songs plays. The app urges the user to “raise your eyebrows” to change the track. Three songs are available as clips: “Three Little Birds”, “Could You Be Loved” and “No Woman No Cry.”
Criticism of the filter stems from the app’s use of Marley’s face, reducing him to a celebration of marijuana. One of the biggest issues is digital Blackface. White users have taken photos with the filter, including reality star Kylie Jenner. Many took to Twitter to share their disapproval of the filter.
Reducing Bob Marley to a Cannabis smoking hippy is disrespectful to music, disrespectful to history and disrespectful to Jamaica.
— The Cult of Chidism (@chidzhazenberry) April 20, 2016
Snapchat got a black face Bob Marley filter for 4/20 smh. So much fail. pic.twitter.com/OFYtIeLFiy
— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) April 20, 2016
The Bob Marley snapchat thing is blackface in 2016 effectively. Digital disrespect
— Elijah (@Eli1ah) April 20, 2016
Snapchat's half-baked 420 nod is a Bob Marley blackface filter?! Dude was Jamaican! Did waaaay more than smoke weed. pic.twitter.com/t6tazxnMxT
— Brian Ries (@moneyries) April 20, 2016
Racist Blackface ✅
Mischaracterization and ignorance of ideals Bob Marley stood for ✅
— H (@henoss_t) April 20, 2016
Bob Marley is hailed as a cultural icon. According to his official website, he advocated for social change while giving listeners an escape from their worries though his music. He urged Black people to learn their history from King David to Solomon in this song “Blackman Redemption.” His music also promoted pan-African awareness and progressive political ideals.
Though many use his likeness as a symbol for marijuana, Marley didn’t smoke weed for recreational purposes. He had strict spiritual ties to the herb. As a Rastafarian, he was a big supporter of the plant’s spiritual, healing and medicinal uses. His music reflects his beliefs.
In a statement to The Guardian, Snapchat defends their Bob Marley filter.
The lens we launched today was created in partnership with the Bob Marley Estate, and gives people a new way to share their appreciation for Bob Marley and his music. Millions of Snapchatters have enjoyed Bob Marley’s music, and we respect his life and achievements.